Thursday, December 22, 2011

Visit to Santa

Last week we took Charlie to see Santa at one of the large department stores here, Selfridge's. To commemorate it, I have a variety of low quality photos to share with you on the blog! These include our picture with "Terrified Santa" up above. 

In an effort to skip the lines, I shopped around online and bought tickets. We had a designated appointment time during Brad's lunch hour and I thought we'd go, let Charlie talk to Santa for a few minutes and have time to grab some lunch.

Um, yeah, WRONG. When you book tickets to see Santa, at least at Selfridge's, you are there for an experience and you are not leaving until you have had one. Oh silly ignorant Kara (Stupid American!) thinking this would be time efficient and quick.

Little did I know that LOTS of people had our appointment time! Just because the appointment times were only 10 minutes apart online did not mean you got your own. We did end up standing in line, waiting our turn to go inside the experience as a group.

I'm just going to call it "the experience" because I have no idea what else to refer to it by. It was like a theme park ride without the roller coaster. 

We went into a couple of different rooms, each for about 10 or 15 minutes, where a character in costume would talk to all the kids and show them different funny things about the rooms. These included buttons that make funny noises (from Santa's workshop, natch) and fake penguins wearing costumes. 

I remember one character being an ice princess, or something like that, but I lost track after that. They all kind of looked the same to me. Elves, I guess? We were in some frozen, ice covered grotto. Father Christmas' Grotto.

Before we went in, we were warned not to take photos, upon penalty of ending up on the bad list. However, nobody seemed to pay this any mind, so we snapped a few too. The lighting was dim, though, so none of them really turned out. And Charlie appears to have orange hair in most of them. 

After a painfully long wait peppered with filler activities, like sending your Christmas wish down a special tube, we were finally welcomed in to see Santa and his #1 helper/picture taker. And I finally told Brad to put up his iPhone or it was going to end up down the Christmas wish tube too.

Santa was maybe 30, but gave a decent booming voice. He took plenty of time with each child, which explained the long wait. He even spent a few minutes talking to the one baby in our group, who was there with his mother and grandmother and couldn't have been more than 6 months old. I'm not sure why they were there.

When you sign up for tickets online, there is a form that asks you what the child's hobbies are, their pet's names and what they want for Christmas. So both the check-in people and Santa asked about Zoe and Bobo. I have to say, Bobo's name in an English accent: hil-arious. Try saying it, all proper like. See what I mean?

Anyways, these strange people asking about his dogs seemed to really confuse Charlie. And Santa was a bit scary, so he mostly got shy and snuggled into my shoulder. But I was proud of him - he did manage to eke out his request for a fire truck, which he has been asking for consistently for 6 weeks.

We also managed to get Charlie in Santa's general vicinity for a photo by letting him sit in Brad's lap. After the picture was snapped, the head elf told Santa he looked like he was about to sneeze in the photo! Hmmm, not really. Does that look like sneezing to you?

It might be my favorite Santa photo, even above the one last year where Charlie looks absolutely terrified, just because Santa is so funny in it. I didn't even really look at it when we bought it. I handed it to Brad to scan at the office. There was no option at the check out to buy a digital file of the photo. Kind of a bummer.

After our photo, we walked out and had to wait in line for our photo and a person in a very large snowman outfit scared Charlie to death. I think Charlie was pretty happy to leave his Santa experience after that. Just toooo scary!

The whole thing took over an hour, so there was no time for lunch with Brad. Charlie and I ended up buying some McDonalds at the Bond street tube station. It was my first McD's visit since getting here. I note the following:
  • All the calories are up there on the menu board, which was kind of handy, but I mostly ignored because I was famished and really just did not care how many calories my McChicken had
  • The McChicken actually tasted like a chicken breast
  • They have not changed the milkshake recipe here like they have back at home, so it was yummy instead of too sweet
  • They had little mozzarella cheese bites to dip in marinara sauce on their holiday menu and Charlie thought that was awesome
So that was it. A big trip to Selfridge's. Charlie really hates Selfridge's because the two times he's been there, it's been extremely boring. For him. Not much of a shopper. In fact, he started to cry when we first walked in, thinking we were there to shop. We finally convinced him that that's where they keep Santa if he'll just be patient for 2 seconds!

I'll keep you all posted if Santa comes through on the fire truck. Frankly, he looks too terrified in the photo not to. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Good Morning!

Here is what happens when you leave Charlie alone for a few minutes in the kitchen! So far this week there has been liquid laundry detergent and Aunt Jemima on the kitchen floor! Housekeeping is loving us. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meet Bad Guy

Some time during the flight over from the states, Person acquired a nemesis. A blond haired nemesis.

Since Charlie likes Person so much, I picked up a few more Playmobil characters for him to unwrap and play with on the plane when we flew to England. Ironically, I think Bad Guy came with some police gear and is a cop.

I have no idea where Charlie even picked up the concept of the bad guy, but now Bad Guy holds just as significant a presence in our lives as Person. He must be located before bed time, he has to take a bath, etc.

Incidentally, on Sunday we were shopping (aka *trying to shop*) on Oxford Street and Regent Street and decided to take Charlie to Hamley's, which is a 6 story toy store. On a weekend right before Christmas. Yeah, brilliant.

Anyways, we got to one of the floors, I don't remember which, and they had a HUGE collection of Playmobil stuff. Brad was carrying Charlie and his eyes got very wide and he said, in complete awe, "Persons!".... so very many persons.

I guess he didn't see any with blond hair because I didn't hear him exclaim about all the bad guys.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

London Eye

the London Eye at twilight a few weeks ago

Yesterday we went and rode the largest Ferris wheel in Europe - the London Eye. My family bought us tickets to visit the Eye and the London Aquarium as a Christmas gift, which was so nice. These were two attractions that were very appealing to us, but kind of on the pricey side. I don't know if we would have sprung for tickets for ourselves, which made it a real treat.

It's hard to tell from the photos, but this thing is HUGE. I've heard it's London's answer to the Eiffel Tower. It is located on the South bank of the Thames and was pretty easy for us to get to since our tube line stops right by it.

Wikipedia tells me the Eye is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK. And you can really tell - they are set up to process a ton of people. Since it was a Saturday during the holidays, it was pretty crowded, but since it was 40 degrees, not terribly crowded. I can only imagine what a zoo it is during the summer. Or what it will be like during the Olympics. Eek.

Charlie fell asleep in his stroller while we were walking around looking for the ticket office. We only had a 10 or 15 minute wait to pick up our tickets and he slept the whole time. That is so sad, that these days 15 minutes is a huge nap for him. Anyways.

By the time we got in line for the Eye, we had to get him out and fold up the stroller. He laid his head down on Brad's shoulder while we waited in line.
Quit taking my picture Mom

I was worried about the grumpies, but as soon as he saw the Ferris wheel pods (??) going by, he was excited. He would yell out Fly Away! I guess they looked like little planes taking off? I'm not sure, but it was a very cute Fly Away.

This is what they look like:
As soon as Charlie realized he had woken up, he was hungry. Fortunately I'd already had a moment of mommy-genius and purchased a ham sandwich, brownie and water for Charlie to eat when he woke up. We cracked that stuff open as soon as we were in our pod for the ride and Charlie snacked the whole time and was very happy. 
Don't you love that hat? My mom picked it out for him. It's the first hat he's ever willingly worn.

The Eye is 443 feet tall. This provides an excellent view, given that London and the surrounding areas are pretty flat. Since it was early afternoon, the sun was already well towards setting the West (don't even get me started on how early the sun sets here), which meant Big Ben and Parliament were hard to catch on camera. This was the best we got:

Everything to the East, South and North, though, was lovely....

Charlie's favorite part was watching the trains speed in and out of Waterloo station....

He also liked watching all the boats on Thames... doesn't that water look yummy??
And here are all of us, posing individually because getting a shot all together is, in Charlie's words, Toooo Haaaarrrrddddd....
Doing his best Tom Cruise

After a week of being sick, it was nice to go do something fun and get out of the apartment for a while. There was a German Christmas market along the river that we walked by briefly, mostly because I am on the hunt for wooden Christmas ornaments and decor similar to what my mom and Aunt have from when my Aunt lived in Germany. I scored some cute stuff and we were all ready for a nap after that.

The tickets also include a visit to the Aquarium some time in the next month and I think we're going to go next weekend. I *love* aquariums and I wanted to have plenty of time to look at everything. I think Charlie will get a kick out of it too.

Thank you family for such a memorable Christmas gift! We had an amazing time!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How We're Doing

We are sick. And by "we" I mean Brad and me, though Charlie might be sick too and just not showing it too much. Sightseeing obviously came to an abrupt screeching halt. Actually any major activity other than working for Brad and keeping Charlie busy for me stopped this week.

Tomorrow it will have been one week since I started feeling bad and I'm just almost feeling better, though not 100%. It's been a tough illness to shake. Brad and I both went to see a private doctor this week to get antibiotics. Yay for the zpack! I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia and Brad with his asthma-y lungs isn't doing any walking - just pneumonia, though it is improving.

The timing stinks, though, because we had to miss Brad's office Christmas party and I'd been planning my outfit for weeks. I need to find somewhere to wear this cute dress I found, and there are practically no holiday parties going on in the states anymore. Such a bummer. We're keeping it low key this weekend so Brad is rested to get back to work on Monday.

We did make it out for a while today to go the London Eye, the largest Ferris wheel in Europe, though! My family sent tickets as a special Christmas treat and we had a blast. It's definitely getting its own post because we took a ton of pictures.

We're getting ready to spend Christmas here, just our little family. We bought a tree last weekend and had it delivered. It's much bigger than I thought we would get - it's a 6 footer. Now I'm trying to decorate it without any of our decorations!

I made some garland out of popcorn and cranberries. We put lights on it. Bows, paper snowflakes.... yeah, after that I'm out of ideas. I'm going to buy a couple meters (not yards!) of fabric to bunch under there as an impromptu skirt, then take the fabric home and do something else with it.

I'm trying to plan Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals. Probably go out for one and do the other at home. I have very limited supplies in this kitchen, so I'm either going to raid Kristen's kitchen while she's out of town (hi Kristen!) or hit up a kitchen supply store.

My dad is helping me find some good recipes. While we are low on kitchen equipment, I think I can find just about any type of meat or fish or ingredient you can think of. There's a fantastic butcher nearby who has wild game and everything. Oh the possibilities!

We're trying to decide what to get Charlie for Christmas this year. We are going to see Santa at Selfridge's department store this Wednesday and it will be interesting to hear what he tells Santa he wants - if anything. He freaked out last year, but seems to get who Santa is this year. Except that everyone here keeps calling him Father Christmas!

Thanks to those of you who emailed me book ideas for Charlie! I was able to get some, though some of the American authored books cost twice as much here, so I went with some British books too. He's enjoying the Judith Kerr books, especially Mog the Cat. I just ordered Mog's Christmas. I'll always be able to remember which of his books we bought here since they call their moms MUMMY! ha

Charlie is still having a rough time sleeping and has had some night terrors. He won't nap and is basically exhausted. Night-mare. He was up 3 times last night. We've finally just come to the conclusion that he hates his room here and just doesn't feel settled. He doesn't want to go in his room at all, refuses to during the day and fights it at night. It doesn't help that he can get out of his crib. He loves his room at home and I hope hope hope he falls back into his routine when we get back.

I guess that's about all that's going on here! It got VERY painfully cold here this past week and so we are going to buy warmer coats tomorrow. I want something puffy with down in it. It's so cold it hurts to be outside at night. My Texas-raised blood can't take it!

Hope you all have a good weekend!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter Wonderland

I am so behind on blogging. I have about 5 posts floating around in my head, but unfortunately also have about 5 different kiddie Christmas specials downloaded on my laptop, so Charlie's been hogging it. Also see earlier posts re: no napping and not wanting to go to bed. I finally have things to blog about and can't get any blogging done! Oh cruel irony!

But anyways. Each year at Christmas here in London, there is a carnival called Winter Wonderland that is put on in Hyde Park. It's a pretty major carnival - almost small amusement park sized. And really cuted up; reminds me a bit of Busch Gardens.

Charlie got to go to Winter Wonderland twice last weekend. Brad took him on Saturday morning while giving me a much needed break. Then I was so jealous I missed it, we all went back on Sunday.

There were a bunch of kiddie rides, all of which Charlie enjoyed. He wants to pick out his vehicle and then pretend to drive it. He got to do an airplane, motorcycle, double decker bus and Coca Cola truck. In other words, he was hot stuff.

There was a Santa that I thought we could go see, but by the time I checked it, the line was insanely long. So we blew it off. Here he is Father Christmas and you visit him in his grotto. I'm not sure about the elves, but for some reason "Santa's helpers" are dressed up as Christmas puddings around the grotto. Basically a big brown ball wearing a Santa hat. I'll just let you draw your own conclusion about what that looks like when you're not used to it.

On Saturday, Charlie also got to ride the big ferris wheel with Daddy while enjoying an excessively large lollipop. Between this and the binky, our future pediatric dentist is very disappointed in us.

From the photos, I can't tell if Charlie really knew he was in a ferris wheel, or if it was just a seat from which to enjoy a giant lollipop. Now when he asks me to ride a ferris wheel, is he really asking for a lollipop?? Not sure.

There was all kinds of yummy fair food from all over the world. We had some bratwurst and weinerschnitzel on a bun. About every 10 feet was a stand selling Belgian waffles covered in nutella. That is a huge thing here - I see someone selling it every time we are somewhere with street food. The British are serious about their nutella. Very popular in crepes, as well.

After we ate and it was clear Charlie was getting tired, we decided to throw all our tickets at a ride all 3 of us could ride. I don't know how to explain it, so here's a picture:

I remember there was an indoor version of this at Six Flags when I used to go with my dad as a kid. Anyways, I didn't recall it being that fast and there was a booth with a DJ playing music while you road, so I thought it would be fun.

To summarize, it was VERY fast, the DJ would only let about 15 seconds of any song play before yelling out something in German and switching songs, and we were both shocked Charlie wasn't scared. He laughed the whole time, except when they had to stop the ride to let a much older girl off (wimp). Then he just got impatient for it to start up again. I think we have a roller coaster fan on our hands! 

Since I almost never include pictures of us, here is some proof we were actually there, watching over our child and buying him tickets and fried food and stuff. I like to call this smile my "Brad quit catching me off guard with your camera" smile. Smirk?

Last night Brad and I had a babysitter and headed back to Winter Wonderland to enjoy it adult-style. We found out that we are not very carnival-compatible. I wanted to ride scary rides and Brad wanted to check out the various bars and live music. By live music, I mean these strange one person music shows in each of the larger pop up bars.

In the end, I was only able to talk him into one scary ride before they shut the place down. Probably not very nice to do to someone with a fear of heights. It was SO FUN though! And here in a few years I think Charlie will ride all the roller coasters I can handle. And then some. :)